About This Chapter
Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations - Chapter Summary
Brush up on your understanding of early civilizations, starting with the developments in Mesopotamia. Our instructors will also discuss the achievements of ancient Egyptians and the Greek culture. You'll see how Rome was founded and learn more about its final days.
Other lessons investigate China in ancient times and the great African civilizations. You can also explore the peoples of the Americas. After watching these lessons, you'll know more about topics such as:
- Mesopotamia and the first known civilizations
- Ancient Egypt
- Art, religion and government in Greece
- Rome's history
- The spread of agriculture in Africa
- The Maya and Inca civilizations
- Trade along the Silk Roads
- Scientific experimentation prior to the Scientific Revolution
You can watch these lessons on a computer or mobile device whenever you have a few extra minutes to devote to study. Each lesson is followed by a short quiz and clickable links in our Timeline make it easy to return to a specific part of the video to review areas where you may need extra study. Other useful study aids we provide include a text transcript of the lesson and an ask-an-expert message board through which you can contact the instructors.
1. Mesopotamia: The First Civilization
In this lesson, we explore the beginning of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Mesopotamia. We specifically discuss the factors that encouraged settlement in the region.
2. How Geography Isolated Ancient China
Unlike many other ancient cultures, China was effectively isolated from many other early civilizations. Geography played a huge role in this isolation - this lesson will help you learn how.
3. The Spread of Pastoralism and Agriculture in Africa
In this lesson we discover the key differences between pastoralism and agriculture and explore the diffusion of these two practices in the history of Africa.
4. Ancient Egypt in the Bronze Age
This lecture first compares the natural features of the Nile valley to those of Mesopotamia, enumerating the advantages that geography offered the Egyptians. This is followed by a brief discussion of why Egyptian material culture survives while so much of Mesopotamian culture has been lost. The lecture ends with a a whirlwind tour through 3,000 years of Egyptian history broken up into traditional historical periods.
5. Ancient Egyptian Art: History and Style
This lesson provides a brief look at the exquisite art of the Ancient Egyptians. Egyptian art contains images of people and deities that represent the culture in which they lived.
6. Greek Myth and Religion
This lecture examines the troubles of generalizing Greek religion, before doing just that. It lists the major Olympian gods and their roles. It then explores the function of heroes in Greek religion. Next, the relationship between gods and men is laid out. Finally, it explores aspects of Greek myth that reemerge in Christianity.
7. Greek City-States and Governments
This is a lecture about Greek city states. It begins with an examination of the influence geography had on Greek politics, by comparing Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia. This is followed by a loose characterization of Greek poleis in general, with specific attention paid to constitutions, colonialism and competition.
8. Ancient Greek Art & Architecture
In this lesson, you will explore the fundamental aspects of Greek art and architecture, two disciplines that set standards of style and technique that influence us to this day. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.
9. The Founding of Ancient Rome & Rome's Early History
This lesson covers the foundation of Rome. We look at the geography of Italy. We examine some of its most important inhabitants before the Romans. Finally, we look at both the historical facts and the Roman myths regarding the foundation of Rome.
10. The Death of the Republic: Julius Caesar & Pompey
This lesson explores the factors that led to the death of the Roman Republic. We start with class warfare. We then move onto the exploits of Pompey. Finally, we see how Julius Caesar delivered the death stroke to the Roman Republic.
11. African Cultures: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai
In this lesson, we learn about the three premier empires of the pre-colonial period in West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, who all profited tremendously from the trans-Saharan gold trade.
12. Life in the Maya Civilization
In this lesson, you will experience a day in the life of a person in the Maya civilization of Central America, and then test your understanding about this complex culture.
13. The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America
The Incan Empire was an amazing empire of the early Americas. Their accomplishments rival those of many other great empires, but they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in only a few years.
14. The Rise of the Aztecs
In this lesson, you will explore the rise of the great Mesoamerican civilization, the Aztec Empire. Then, you will be able to test your understanding about Aztec history with a brief quiz.
15. The Silk Roads During the Han Dynasty & The Roman Empire
The Silk Roads connected some of the most diverse cultures in history, as well as providing a link between the superpowers of 2,000 years ago. Learn more about the route that connected the Han Dynasty and Imperial Rome.
16. Pre-Scientific Revolution: Logic, Reason & Scientific Experimentation
In this lesson, we explore the reasons behind the typical narrative surrounding the Middle Ages and the advances in reason and science made during this period.
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